Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 6, No 1 (2010)

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The Normative Sciences, the Sign Universe, Self-Control and Rationality – According to Peirce

Bent Sørensen, Torkild Leo Thellefsen


Although Charles S. Peirce, strictly speaking, never formulated a ”full-blown” normative theory – a single over-all architectonic system – we believe that there lies within his work a valuable sketch in understanding the ideal for the feeling, action, and thought of man, and how it should be followed, and in connection to this, a model for rational behaviour including self-control. In the following we will try, modestly, to draw a rough outline of this sketch. Firstly, we will focus on the three normative sciences, their order of independence and their task of finding out how feeling, action and thought ought to be controlled. Then, we will take a look at the sign-universe. The very universe is a sign-universe and within this evolutionary universe feeling, matter and thought incessantly melt together into “concrete reasonabless”; according to Peirce, rendering the world more reasonable is exactly the Summum Bonum, which man can and indeed should pursue; hence it makes absolutely no sense of speaking of the three normative sciences out of this metaphysical or cosmological context. Finally, we will try to see in what way rationality can be said to fall within the spheres of self-control, bearing in mind that self-control is directly related to conditional purpose.

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